I put it off, sometimes for days on end. If there is no company coming, I may go weeks. The task of cleaning my daughter's room looms over me, and I dread it. Today, I sit in the middle of the mess, surrounded by more dolls than any four-year-old has right to own, and the tears won't stop. Heavy, solid sobs that come from a place deep inside. But it is not the mess I'm wailing about. I cry for Frania.

When the borders closed, all they had were postcardsI never knew Frania. I never knew about Frania until my mother (of blessed memory) passed away. Between grieving and mourning, organizing and calling, there were papers to go through and estates to settle. And there, among a will and ancient makeup receipts, was a pretty tin box filled with hundreds of postcards. Postcards with Hitler stamps on them, dated from the middle 1930's – 40's. Postcards not in English, but in a faded, long ago script. And under them a typed, bound manuscript where my mother translated the postcards that were sent from the ghetto to her parents in Belgium.

My mother's parents had left Poland, unwillingly, unhappily, just for a little while, just before the war, to find work in Belgium. When the borders closed, all they had were postcards, back and forth, one, two, three, every week, catching up on lives they missed so much. As the world fell apart and the unimaginable became ordinary, my mother turned into what today is called a "Hidden Child." My mother's parents left her with a Catholic family she later called her own, and tried to disappear. It was more manageable this way, to hide, to run, to be not Jewish and without the demands of a baby.

The postcards I discovered spoke of the lives of so many relatives I will never know, and Frania, who entered the ghetto at the age of one and was murdered in Auschwitz by her fifth birthday. Frania had wanted one doll. Postcard upon postcard outlining the life of Frania, who was the same age as my mother. Postcard upon postcard asking to please, send a little sugar, a little butter, some warm socks. It gets cold at night. Frania wants a doll, please don't send a doll. There is no room in the ghetto for a doll. Frania turned three, please send some bread. Frania still wants a doll, please don't send a doll. Your father was taken away, Frania made a doll out of sticks.

My mother decoded these postcards into the language her daughters could understand, to pass on all that is left of a past, a lineage, and horrible sadness. Everyone was murdered. Two families, aunts, uncles, parents and babies. Frania died without ever owning a doll.

Frania died without ever owning a dollMy mother was ill for most of her life. On November 25, 2006, at the young age of sixty-eight, and weighing just under fifty pounds, after many difficulties the doctors could not explain, she passed away. The psychiatrist, however, said my mother died from Survivor's Guilt.

I clean my daughter's toys and I am so grateful to be living in a time when little girls can take dolls for granted. And I know that one day I will have to tell my children about Frania.

Dedicated to my mother, Nathalie Nadine Nudel bat Channa and Chaim.